City History

The Early Years

     Frazee has had an interesting and colorful history, which dates back a few years before the actual incorporation. Originally named Detroit, the plat of the old town site was made on May 27, 1857.  The following was recorded at St. Cloud on June 17, 1857, eleven years before there was a settler in the area that is now Becker County:

"Commencing at an oak tree at the southwest corner of said town site, and running north, crossing the Otter Tail River and Detroit Lake, 5,280 feet, thence running east, crossing the Otter Tail River, 2,058 feet, thence running south 5,280 feet, thence west 2,958 feet to the place of the beginning."  The town site was a mile long north and south and over a half mile wide from east to west.  The town site contained about 358 ½ acres of land and showed 131 city blocks.  The western line was about where the bridge crosses Town Lake (near the Lion's Park and the "World's Largest Turkey") and the eastern line was near the railroad bridge.

     Becker County was established in 1858, but not formally organized until February 25, 1871.  Detroit village was organized on July 5, 1871.  Detroit village was later called Third Crossing and finally named Frazee.

     For nearly three years before the Northern Pacific Railroad was built, the nearest station was at Hobart, a long mile on the other side of the Otter Tail River. In the summer of 1872 a company consisting of Absalom Campbell, Charles M. Campbell, Wm. G. Chilton, and T. W. Chilton built a dam and sawmill on Section 26, near where the Nichols, Chisholm Lumber Company's sawmill stood. After operating their mill for a few months, they sold the land to R. L. Frazee, from whom Frazee derives its name. Shortly after Frazee bought this land, he added to it and set about laying out the town site. W. C Darling made the survey of this town site in the summer of 1873. Frazee next began negotiations with the railroad to move the depot a big mile up the track to his town site, and as an inducement he offered one-half lots in his new town site. The move was gradually accomplished, but not before a temporary depot was erected. Finally, on the 25th of October 1874, the depot was loaded on two flat cars, brought across the river, and dumped off at the new station on the north side of the track.

     The Honorary Randolph L. Frazee, born July 3. 1841 in Ohio came to Minnesota in 1866. In1868 he moved from St. Cloud to Otter Tail City, and built a sawmill in 1872 where New York Mills is now. This was first called Frazee's Mills. In the fall of 1872, he bought the Campbell-Chilton mill at Frazee, and a year later had added a flourmill in northern Minnesota. These mills burned October 14, 1889.

     Mr. Frazee sold all his mill property in 1890 to A. H. Wilcox, who repaired the dam, rebuilding the sawmill on the old foundation the same year, and operating it until January 1897, when he sold to the Commonwealth Lumber Company.

     The Village of Frazee started on its way to incorporating on the 6th of January 1891.

     By April 15, 1898, The Frazee Village Council had contracted with the Commonwealth Lumber Co. for a number of streetlights to be used on Front and Mill streets. There were 10 poles and on each there would be three large incandescent lights. Seven of the poles would be on Front Street. There were to be three poles on Mill Street, and the remainder of the town would be lighted as before, with oil. Lights also were to be furnished in residences and businesses at $1.00 per month for each light.

     The first sewers were begun in1898 and this was quite a step in really being citified!

     By 1908 the town was divided into four section: The town proper, The Bunker Hill district, the river district and what they called the church district or church hill on the south side of the railroad tracks.

     The Nichols-Chisholm Mill was certainly the biggest industry in town, and one of the largest mills in the state. The village also boasted of a gristmill, a bank, a number of progressive merchants, restaurants, hotels, confectionaries, a newspaper, a high school, and four churches by 1908.